By Nick Simeone, AFPS, WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2012 - The Defense Department continues to assess the security needs of its African partners, some of which face a growing terrorist presence, but is not planning for unilateral military intervention, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.
In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, raised the possibly of the need for outside military help to push Islamic militias believed to have links to al-Qaida out of a vast area of Mali.
At a Pentagon news conference today, Little told reporters the military is paying close attention to the situation, but has no plans to intervene unilaterally in Mali or in the region.
"The United States military works very closely with a number of countries in the region to address counterterrorism," Little said. With regard to specific requests for U.S. assistance, Little said "I'm not prepared to make any announcements today, but we continue to assess their needs and, where possible and appropriate, will work closely with our partners in the region."
The French government last week joined the governments of Mali and other West African nations in calling for the creation of an African-led international force to help secure Mali's ungoverned territory. Mali's government also has asked for military intervention from the 16-nation Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, which has intervened in other African conflicts.
Little said the United States would consider requests for help from the group, but the U.S. focus remains on helping the region meet its security challenges on its own. "We're paying very close attention to the situation in the region and stand ready should our partners in the region and regional actors such as ECOWAS request our assistance," he said.